Despite success, Skoda India looking beyond the Kushaq and Slavia
Skoda India is in an upbeat mood, and rightly so. Their previous two launches, the Kushaq compact SUV and the Slavia sedan have both been well received by the Indian consumer, and Skoda still retains the confidence of the public like very few carmakers can say. The newly launched Kushaq Monte Carlo edition, which you can read about here, has managed to increase the morale within the company. We recently had conversations with Zac Hollis, Director, Sales and Marketing at Skoda India, in which we learnt of the various ways in which Skoda is planning their future, the things that are working for them right now, and what the Indian customer wants. Read on to find out more!
Sales are good
If you factor in Skoda India’s sales in March, India was the second largest market for Skoda after Germany! This was certainly helped by the Slavia, which has been doing 2500-3000 cars since its launch every month. Kushaq also sells very well with 2500-3000 selling every month. However, Skoda says there is potential for these numbers to pick up, with the Slavia crossing the 3000 mark and the Kushaq doing even more. In fact, the success of the 1.5-litre engine option in the Slavia has been a surprise even to Skoda, who had originally planned for to have a 15 per cent share of total Slavia volumes, but which now actually has a 30 per cent share, which is the reason why it has a four-month waiting period.
While the locally manufacter cars are driving sales, the premium offerings are doing theor fair share as well. Skoda launched the new facelifted Kodiaq in India in January 2022, with plans to bring 100 units a month. Every single one of those units has already been spoken for. More units have already been requisitioned from global headquarters, they say. The Octavia and Superb both have more than 30 per cent market share in their categories, with 180 and 200 units sold last month respectively. It is interesting to note that the Superb sold more units than the Octavia, which could be a telling sign of the rebuttal of the new generation Octavia’s pricing in India by Indian buyers. It also a telling sign of the great value proposition that the Superb represents in the premium segment.
Another great indication of how the Indian customer has changed is the fact that Skoda is “considering” a voluntary crash test of its cars in the Global NCAP. This is an interesting move, seeing as how Tata and Mahindra have used their voluntary crash test ratings as a marketing win. Perhaps Skoda could do the same with their cars. However, these ideas are still firmly in the “maybe” category, with Skoda not willing to confirm anything at the moment.
Like most carmakers around the world, Skoda has also been hit by the chip shortage, with variants planned to skirt around the issue, at least for the time being. For example, there will be a new Active variant without a radio that will start at ₹9.99 lakh. While the car will have its speakers and wiring harnesses already in place, the head unit will be available only as a separate option for ₹35,000. Skoda says that the 500-600 units of this particular variant that will be built are already nearly sold out. Another variant, the Ambition classic has been given normal push button AC with no climatronic system, and the removal of electronic folding ORVM mirrors, with the feature now available as an option for ₹20,000. Certain batches of the Kushaq (even the higher variants) were sold without the electrically folding ORVMs, and these customers can have this feature retrofit from their dealer now. These kinds of variant treatments are not unprecedented in today’s age. Consider how BMW was forced to sell cars without touchscreens, and Skoda’s choices seem but rational.
Customer above all
Currently Skoda has 160 outlets in the country, but the company says that this will ramp up to 180-190 outlets by the end of this year. There will also be smaller dealer concepts with two car displays. Skoda says that selling 30-40 cars a month is a strong business case for this assertion.
Skoda says they believe in getting their service network set up before dealerships. The service first concept includes 40 compact workshops which can do 70 per cent of work. 30 smaller workshops are also open alongside them, and 40 more of these are coming up. These smaller workshops have only two bays in each.
In fact, according to Zac Hollis, local dealers have been approaching Skoda itself, asking to open dealerships in new and under-served towns.
Dreams of RS
Skoda says customers are asking for an RS version of the Slavia. Skoda are up for it, and say that ideally it would get a little more power. This would also help differentiate between the more powerful versions of the Slavia. This said, extracting more power will be an expensive process especially since it would also require homologation. Meanwhile, the Octavia RS could have a future in India, after all. Zac Hollis confirms that Skoda is considering bringing in the latest generation of Octavia RS to India as a fully-built-unit. Fingers crossed!
Where is the revolution?
In terms of an alternate energy strategy, Skoda says they haven’t announced a strategy for electric vehicles specifically, but are “not behind the curve”. That would be true globally, since Skoda already sells the Enyaq iV, which is based on the Volkswagen family’s electric-only MEB platform. Is this a hint at an India launch? Also, considering that VW India has already brought an Indianised variant of the MQB platform (MQB A0-IN), it would not be out of the realm of reason that there could be an Indianised MEB platform in the works in the future, although Skoda has not confirmed it. However, Skoda is completely ruling out CNG, saying that a Slavia CNG would be ₹12-13 lakh, whereas any rivals that model would have, are in the ₹8-9 lakh range, which destroys the business case. Instead, Skoda are looking at their Greenline technology to meet CAFE norms. This would include various measures such as bringing in new variants with low rolling resistance tyres, weight saving and start-stop systems, among other changes, which increase the efficiency of existing engines in the lineup.